Throughout North America there is a movement to relearn the forgotten skills of self-sufficiency. People from various walks of life are recognizing that our consumerist lifestyle has a negative impact on the planet and on our quality of life. These groups, families, organization and individuals want change and many turn towards acts of self-reliance. There are many things people can do to increase their self-sufficiency such as growing organic vegetables (in large or small spaces), learning to preserve food, hunting wild animals or homesteading.
It was our desire to be self-reliant that began our adventure in raising and breeding rabbits for meat. We considered a variety of animals for our backyard homestead like chickens and goats, but at the time rabbits were the best fit for our needs.
Rabbits are well suited for small spaces. Rabbits don’t need much space to be comfortable. We keep our rabbits in all-wire cages with a floor area of 2.5 by 3 feet. All wire cages keep rabbits safe and clean. At first it can be difficult to imagine that a rabbit would be content living in an all wire cage. Wouldn’t they rather be running around in the grass? Then I came across a book Rabbit Housing: Planning, Building, and Equipping Facilities for Humanely Raising Healthy Rabbits. I thought that the book would contain designs for elaborate rabbit housing and was surprise that the book was a proponent of the all-wire hutch. I still have plans to build a moveable rabbit-run for our backyard as a way to control the weeds.
A small rabbitry is quiet and should not stink. Rabbits don’t cluck or bleet. The most noise you’ll get from rabbits is when they run around their cages. As for the smell, rabbit urine does smell but most of it is absorbed by the soil. On occasion we might toss some lime on the ground to absorb the smell and the poop is raked up every week or so. As long as the cages and surrounding area are cleaned on a regular basis there shouldn’t be much smell.
Rabbits are easy to care for. Each day rabbits need to be fed and watered. Doing this basic task takes five minutes. Handling or petting the rabbits a little each day will domesticate them and make it easier for breeding or showing.
Farmed rabbit meat is lean and mild tasting. Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat. It can easily substitute for chicken meat and many people would think it was chicken unless told otherwise. There are various breed of meat rabbits to choose from. We raise Champagne D’Argent rabbits and they are an excellent meat rabbit.
A couple extra rabbit perks. Rabbit manure can be used in your garden. Unlike chicken manure which needs to mature before being used, rabbit manure can be thrown right into your garden. If you have too much rabbit manure it can be composted or put into pails for avid gardeners to take home. Also, rabbit pelts can be tanned and used for at home sewing projects or sold to crafters.
Before raising rabbits it’s always good to do a bit of research and reading. Here are a couple book recommendations: Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits and Rabbit Housing: Planning, Building, and Equipping Facilities for Humanely Raising Healthy Rabbits.
If you are interested in raising and breeding rabbits for meat there are a few things to consider before getting started. To start I would recommend you try eating rabbit. Even though farmed rabbit is mild it might not be to your liking.
If you do enjoy the taste of rabbit next to consider is how much will it cost to start up a small rabbitry. A rabbitry needs a structure to protect the rabbits from the elements, cages, feeders, water bottles, nesting boxes, tattoo kit, rabbit feed and rabbits of course! You can start a rabbitry with one buck (male) and one doe (female) but a common recommendation is one buck and two does. We started ours with two bucks and two does. Our start up cost was around $600, and we built our own cages and housing.
Next you have to think about the B-word, butchering. You will need to decide who will kill and butcher the rabbits. In our home my husband kills the rabbits and I do the butchering. The process is fairly simple. This set up works well for us. You might be able to out source this task if you know someone that will do it for you.
|This rabbit just had it’s ear tattooed which is why there is black ink in its left ear.|
I hope this helps in your rabbit raising adventures, if you have any questions (or suggestions) about raising rabbits feel free to comment below or send me an email by going to my Contact page.
For more information about raising rabbits:
04/13 Reviving Cold Newborn Baby Rabbits
04/13 Preventing Nest Box Eye Infections in Baby Rabbits
04/11 Treating Baby Rabbit Eye Infections